Sunday, March 27, 2005

It Just Doesn't Jive

The latest article by Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post tackles how Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan jives with the Bush Doctrine. Or rather -- how it doesn't.

Bush says that the West needs to stop excusing Arab dictators, hoping to purchase stability at the price of liberty. But what is Sharon's disengagement plan if not this? Retreating and getting nothing in return will never be appreciated by the Arabs. It will achieve quite the opposite, as evidenced by an interview with Hamas spokesman Ahmed al-Bahar in MK Azmi Bishara's Web site,

"All indications show that since its establishment, Israel has never been in such a state of retreat and weakness as it is today, following more than four years of the intifada," he continued. "Hamas's heroic attacks exposed the weakness and volatility of the impotent Zionist security establishment. The withdrawal marks the end of the Zionist dream and is a sign of the moral and psychological decline of the Jewish state. We believe that the resistance is the only way to pressure the Jews."

I think most of us who follow the situation in the Middle East knew this was how Hamas was going to spin it.

It took a while for the significance of Sharon's plan to become clarified for Israelis. As recently as last month, many voices on the Left were still questioning whether Sharon had something up his sleeve that they didn't know about. Yet as time passed, and Sharon became increasingly shrill in his defense of his policies – while demonizing and firing anyone who voiced opposition to or doubt about the wisdom of his plans – its significance sunk in for everyone.

Given the total disconnect between the Bush Doctrine, which places the onus for change on the Arabs by calling for their democratization and eschewal of terrorism, and the Sharon plan, which makes no demands whatsoever on the Palestinians...

So why in the world is Bush supporting this plan (or worse, propelling it)? There is a theory, and it's espoused by Norman Podoretz, an intellectual whom Glick admires greatly:

...if the Palestinians continue to attack Israel after the IDF evacuates the Jewish communities and withdraws from the areas, Israel will be free to take any action it deems necessary to secure itself. He claims that because of Bush's commitment to the Bush Doctrine, the Arab world will now be forced to enact reforms that will transform the Palestinians' operating environment in a manner that will force them to give up terror.

While Glick is fine with debating the merits of this stance, what she finds even more interesting is what he's left out -- explaining exactly what Israel gains from this maneuver. And the reason is because Israel gains nothing.

The fact that the current policy of expulsion and retreat is being enacted by Sharon – the great general and right-wing tactician – is a source of confusion for many who are looking for a catch that will explain and justify his adoption of a radical, left-wing plan. Hopefully, once the supporters of Israel – who, like Podhoretz, were brave enough to ignore the conformist pressures and oppose Oslo – come to accept the fact that Sharon's policy involves many risks but provides no opportunities, they will not hesitate to disavow it. And again, hopefully, at that point they will demand that the US policy toward the Palestinians be brought into line with the Bush Doctrine.

I keep hoping for an 11th hour rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick by Sharon, but I don't see how it can happen.


At 9:56 PM, Blogger MissingLink said...

In my opinion Sharon doesn't have much room to manoeuvre considering the following:
1. No US administration truly understands the situation.
This includes Bush who gives too much credit to the Palestinian good will (deep down they want peace) and so Sharon wants to show his goodwill (or they pretend they do not understand).
2. Virtually no support from Europe
3. Sharon must pay attention to what current US Democrats are thinking about the whole deal and so far the whole jam is their doing (mostly Carter’s and Clinton’s).
Sharon’s rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick will be the Palestinian behaviour AFTER the disengagement is accomplished.
He knows well enough the Arabs will continue what they are doing right now and this should provide legitimacy (in the eyes of EU and US public opinion) to make the next and decisive move.
I’d say this is a big gamble but I don’t see too many options opened.
There were too many errors made on the way to Oslo accord.
What should be done is a massive propaganda campaign to stress the Israeli goodwill and at the same time they should get ready and wait for the opposition wrong move which will eventually happen.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Esther said...

Great points, felis. And I agree. I just fear how many Israelis are going to die waiting for the next move on the chess board.

At 10:29 PM, Blogger Tran Sient said...

Sorry to wade in. This is a much more serious blog than mine but I like stopping by. Bush has been a stone wall on these issues relative to past administrations. This is surprising since most Jewish support in this country goes to Democrats.

Also have one question. Why would Sharon have to pay attention to Democrats since they are out of power on all fronts?

At 12:33 AM, Blogger MissingLink said...

"Also have one question. Why would Sharon have to pay attention to Democrats since they are out of power on all fronts?"

Always look a few elections ahead not to offend possible winner.
Also not to offend Jewish supporters of Israel in the US, who are mostly Dems supporters.
Talking about difficult balance.

At 4:20 AM, Blogger patrickafir said...

felis summarized my assessment of the situation pretty well, but I think—more disturbingly—that most U.S. administrations have understood (at least broadly) what the dynamics and mechanics are in Israel's struggle with hateful Arab enemies. I think that State gets in the way, especially because of cheap Arab oil.

You know, it's just sad how many of us ordinary Americans (non-Jewish in my case) understand it pretty well, and want more to be done to help the side of this conflict that a.)deserves that help, and b.) who actually has earned our allegiance over and over, and c.)is the only real and lasting democracy over there right now. It gets pretty frustrating sometimes.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Esther said...

trans sient...please, no need to be sorry to wade in -- I want you and anyone else who wants to to wade in! And I agree with you about Bush with regards to past adminstrations -- sadly that's not saying much when the past includes Clinton, Bush 41 and Carter. Oy. I think felis handled your question (thanks felis!) nicely. Patrick, the State dept is always against Israel. probably has to do with 22 ambassadors to Arab countries shouting down the 1 to the Jewish state. I'm sure the Arabs ply their abassadors with tons of gifts and plenty of rhetoric.


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